From Financial Literacy to Financial Resilience: How Has the Pandemic Impacted Consumer Behaviour?
The state benefits from enhancing people’s financial literacy
Financial literacy is a very important thing for the state. Not only for a person, but also for the state. Because the success of the economic policy and investment policy will largely depend on how literate the citizens who live in this state will be [...] Here’s the simplest example. Where do citizens keep their money? Under a pillow or in the bank. Or they invest in some financial instruments that then allow this money to work for them. On the one hand, they receive income [...], while, on the other hand, they increase the gross domestic product of said state — Anton Siluanov, Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation.
People were not ready for the pandemic from a financial standpoint
The COVID-19 pandemic clearly exposed problems that exist both at the individual level and in the financial system as a whole. I always say that a pandemic allows us to reimagine the future. It’s impossible to return to the norms of the pre-pandemic era, because these norms were not good enough. I want to cite a figure [...] one-third [...] Prior to the pandemic, about one-third of the population in many countries was unable [to cope] with a small financial shock. For example, a month without income, and even more so, huge shocks, big disruptions, like disruptions associated with a pandemic. So, we were all financially vulnerable even before the pandemic [...] In 2014, together with the World Bank and Gallup [Institute], we developed a survey to measure financial literacy in countries around the world. We found that there was a ‘pandemic of financial illiteracy’ even before COVID-19 [...] In my native Italy, only 37% of people are financially literate. In Russia, [the figure is] only 38% [...] As you can imagine, this is a very low level of knowledge — Annamaria Lusardi, Professor of Economics and Accountancy, George Washington University School of Business; Founder, Academic Director, Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center.
The pandemic prompted people to create a financial safety net
People nevertheless often try to behave rationally. I wouldn’t say that it’s irrational, but [their] knowledge and skills may not be sufficient. There are simply no solutions that are suitable once and for all. It all depends on the situation in which people are in and their needs. For example, [if they need] to improve their living conditions, they have to look at certain products and so on, and so on. Much depends on the situation. Incidentally, we see how circumstances have changed in the context of the pandemic and how attitudes have changed. People understand that in general it is essential to have [...] a financial safety net that helps in these conditions, when incomes are falling and there is uncertainty — Elvira Nabiullina, Governor of the Bank of Russia.
Experts have a hard time assessing the efforts of states to improve financial literacy
At present, most countries are following a fairly clear path [...] They are enhancing the financial literacy of the population by conducting various seminars and lectures as well as organizing certain resources, including online. A lot of money is being invested in this, but it’s rather difficult to assess the results of this work. Because many people, no matter how we teach them, still behave irrationally: they get into microloans, they give money to scammers promising to turn one rouble into a million roubles, and buy lottery tickets, hoping for a jackpot. They do not have any savings and are guided by the principles of ‘you only live once’, ‘we’ll figure things out somehow’, ‘we’ll tackle problems as they arise’, and so on [...] As a result, some people find themselves in a rather difficult financial situation — Evgeny Belyakov, Economic Observer, Publishing House "Komsomolskaya Pravda".
People overestimate the level of their own financial knowledge
People quite frequently overestimate the level of their knowledge. Our recent polls also show that when answering the question ‘Do you consider yourself financially literate?’, many people confidently answer ‘yes’. I’m not sure, but over 80 percent will say: ‘Yes, we are financially literate’. But then, when answering other questions, such as, ‘Do you save money?’ or ‘How do you behave?’, the numbers are completely different [...] Unfortunately, our knowledge and what we think of ourselves are very often at odds with how we actually behave — Anna Kharnas, Head, Financial Literacy Center, Financial Research Institute of the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation.
Dishonest market participants take advantage of new clients’ low level of financial literacy
What has the experience of the last year, for example, taught us? [...] We pursued a soft monetary policy, and deposit rates decreased. People understand that they need to hold onto their savings, especially during this period, so that they don’t depreciate. And then people began actively searching for alternatives, primarily on the stock market [...] We now have about 10 million people on the stock market. Many people lack the knowledge and skills to understand these complex products. This was compounded by the unscrupulous behaviour of numerous financial institutions, which, in search of a quick profit, undoubtedly began offering some [dubious] products after seeing the financial flow that went to this part of the market — Elvira Nabiullina, Governor of the Bank of Russia.
The state should make financial literacy a mandatory component of schooling
How should the state motivate people? First of all, we should probably make this a mandatory component of our educational programmes [...] You have to start doing it from school. Together with the Central Bank, we are actively pursuing this position here because there are textbooks and courses. Starting from school, people should absorb the skills of financial literacy and understand how to start a business […], how to save money, and how not to succumb to those tempting offers that allow them to ‘get rich overnight’. We are all perfectly aware that there is no quick money [...] Second, it seems to me that the state should limit [...] decisions that [people] simply have a difficult time taking. For example, we just talked [...] about how there were big risks when people began actively participating in the financial market. At the same time, these people are being offered complex financial products that are impossible for an ordinary citizen to understand. So, this is where the state should pull the emergency brake — Anton Siluanov, Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation.